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CLEVELAND, Ohio – A 14-2 second half run over a span of 2:15 ignited the University of Akron men's basketball team to a 79-62 victory past eighth-seeded Eastern Michigan in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Thursday, March 9, at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Zips (25-7) advance to the semifinal round for a league-record 12th consecutive season and will face the fourth-seeded Ball State Cardinals on Friday, March 10, at 5:30 p.m. CBS Sports Network will televise the contest. Akron goes in search of its ninth championship game appearance in the last 11 campaigns with a win.
Senior Isaiah Johnson (Cincinnati, Ohio) directed the Zips with a game-high 24-point, 10-rebound and three-block effort, including scoring 15 points in the second half, to register his seventh double-double of the season. Akron also garnered 19 and 11 points, respectively, from junior Noah Robotham (Las Vegas, Nev.) and sophomore Josh Williams (Akron, Ohio).
James Thompson IV led the Eagles recording a double-double with 18 points and a game-high 16 rebounding. Joining Thompson with double-figure scoring efforts was Ray Lee, Tim Bond and Ty Toney with 17, 11 and 10 tallies, respectively.
The Zips finished the affair shooting 45.5 percent from the field, including a 48.3 percent mark in the second half. Akron also connected on 9-of-28 attempts (32.1 percent) from beyond the arc. The Zips made 20 attempts at the charity stripe, including Robotham nailing 11-of-12 shots at the free throw line. Despite hitting 42.3 percent of their second-half shots, the Eagles concluded the tilt shooting 36.8 percent from the field.
The Zips were outrebounded, 36-35, despite outhustling Eastern Michigan on the glass in the second half, 20-12.
Akron made the most of 13 turnovers by the Eagles as the Zips registered an 18-10 margin in points off turnovers, while also collecting a 10-2 advantage in second-chance points.
The Eagles jumped out to an early 11-5 lead at the first media timeout (13:55) on the strength of 11 points from Thompson.
Eastern Michigan thwarted the early scoring efforts of the Zips limiting Akron to baskets from Johnson and redshirt freshman Daniel Utomi (Houston, Texas), while pulling down seven rebounds.
The Zips came out of the timeout scoring seven of the next nine points, to cut the deficit to one, 13-12, following a lay-up by Robotham at the 12:12 mark.
The defenses then ratcheted up on both sides as Akron held the Eagles without a field goal for six minutes, while the Zips were held at bay for 5:02 following a three pointer from senior Kwan Cheatham, Jr. (Cincinnati, Ohio) at the 9:58 mark, which made the score 17-15 in favor of Eastern Michigan.
Following pair of free throws by Thompson that extended the Eagles' lead to 19-15, Akron squared the contest at 19 following a free throw by Johnson and a triple junior Antino Jackson (Houston, Texas) at the 5:35 mark.
A lay-up by Nick Madray pushed Eastern Michigan ahead, 21-19, before Antino Jackson gave Akron its first lead of the afternoon, one it didn't relinquish, with a triple with 4:56 remaining in the half.
The triple was part of an overall 15-2 run that extended the Zips' lead to 30-21, capped by a jumper from Antino Jackson at the 2:10 mark. Antino Jackson netted five of those 15 points, including making a three pointer.
The Eagles responded to the rally with a 6-0 surge to close the half with Akron leading at the intermission, 30-27.
The Zips connected on 42.3 percent of their first-half shots, while limiting Eastern Michigan to a 32.3 percent shooting mark.
Akron was outrebounded in the initial half, 24-15, including 12-5 on the offensive glass. The Zips though negated the advantage as the Eagles only posted an 8-3 margin in second-chance points.
Johnson paced Akron with nine first-half points, while Thompson turned in a 13-point, 12-rebound effort for the Eagles.
The Zips opened the second half scoring the first five points to extend their margin to eight, 35-27, following a pair of free throws from Johnson.
Akron held Eastern Michigan with a field goal over a span of 5:11, including the final 46 seconds of the first half, to push its lead to 39-31, following a basket by Johnson at the 16:58 mark.
After exchanging the next four baskets, the Zips used a 6-0 run to assume their largest lead of the game 12, 49-37, with a free throw by Johnson.
Akron again stretched its margin to 12 points, 55-43, following a pair of technical free throws by Robotham.
An 8-0 Eastern Michigan run cut its deficit to four, 55-51, after a three pointer by Lee.
The Zips fired back a salvo of their own with a 16-4 run over a span of 2:49 to extend their lead to 71-57 following a triple by Williams at the 2:34 mark. Fueling the run was six points on a pair of three pointers from Williams and four points courtesy of Johnson.
Robotham was clutch over the final two minutes connecting on five free throws before Cheatham capped the scoring with a three pointer with 33 seconds remaining in the game.